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Mayo Clinic researchers estimate the hospitalization costs for underage drinking in the United States is about $755 million a year, according to a study published this week in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Researchers found the largest part of this expense, or approximately $505 million, goes toward treatment. They also say underage drinking can also lead to other destructive behavior as well as a greater dependence on alcohol in adulthood.
“When teenagers drink, they tend to drink excessively, leading to many destructive consequences including motor vehicle accidents, injuries, homicides and suicides,” said Dr. Terry Schneekloth, a Mayo Clinic addiction expert and psychiatrist, in a statement. “Harmful alcohol use in adolescence is a harbinger of alcohol abuse in adulthood.”
Young people who start drinking before the age of 15 years are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after age 21 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control, which describes underage alcohol use “a major public health problem.”
Youth aged 12 to 20 years drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States, and more than 90 percent of this is consumed in the form of binge drinking, according to the CDC.
Mayo researchers also found geographic and demographic differences in the incidence of alcohol-related hospital admissions. The study shows the average age of alcohol-related hospitalization was 18 and 61 percent of those young people hospitalized were male.
Mayo’s study also shows hospitalization is more common in the Northeast and Midwest and lowest in the South.